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Defending champion Amherst flexes muscle against football

McAllister

Walker

Doherty

Jammal

Kukesh

Evans

Helm

George

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Amherst College football team showed Saturday that it planned on defending its NESCAC championship, and just may go for a second straight undefeated season, too, in defeating Bates 44-0 at Pratt Field in the Bobcats' season opener.

The Lord Jeffs ran for a pair of touchdowns, threw for two others, returned a fumble for six points and were a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts while increasing their winning streak to nine games dating back to 2009.

Coming off their first undefeated season since 1984, the Lord Jeffs scored early and often to dash any hopes of a Bates upset, showing little rust. Three-year starting quarterback Alex Vetras threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while Eric Bunker led a powerful running game with 96 yards and a touchdown.

The Lord Jeffs’ defense recovered three Bobcat fumbles and held Bates to eight first downs. Amherst had a 391-143 edge in total offense and scored on all six of its trips to the red zone.

The Bobcats began possessions inside their own 30-yard line for most of the day. From there, the defense stifled the Bates running game to give the offense great field position. Amherst scored on five of its first six drives, carrying a 34-0 lead into halftime.

After combining for only six points in first-quarter action last season, the Lord Jeffs had 20 points in the opening 15 minutes before Bates had a chance to get settled. On the second play from scrimmage, the Jeff defense disrupted a hand-off from junior Bates quarterback Ryan Katon (Durham, Conn.) and Jeff Katz recovered a fumble on the Bates 22-yard line. With great field position for his first drive, Vetras scrambled away from pressure on 2nd-and-7 and snuck into the end zone for a 17-yard score, giving the hosts an early 7-0 lead.

After another quick defensive stop, the Amherst offense began just behind midfield and Vetras connected with Andrew Reed for a 50-yard bomb down the sideline to bring the Jeffs inside the Bobcat 5-yard line. The Jeffs could only muster a field goal as Rawson nailed a 25-yarder, but the Jeffs held a 10-0 lead.

Rawson hit another 33-yard field goal five minutes later and with a minute left in the quarter Vetras connected with Andre Gary for a 2-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 20-0.

Bates, playing a new triple-option offense, struggled to establish a rhythm. Katon was 7-of-23 and threw for 67 yards on the day, while the Bobcats’ committee of running backs gained 76 yards, with sophomore Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) and senior Jared Jammal (Concord, Mass.) leading the way with 21 yards apiece. First-year Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.) caught a team-high four passes for 30 yards.

The Lord Jeff defense did not allow the triple option to gain much momentum thanks to great pressure from the defensive linemen, forcing the Bobcats into several 3rd-and-long situations.

Amherst’s biggest defensive play came from the secondary in the first minute of the second quarter and essentially closed the door on any chances for a Bobcat comeback. After Evan Rosenstein forced a fumble on a quarterback option, Gordie Lockbaum snatched the ball out of the air and scampered 38 yards to paydirt, giving Amherst a 27-0 lead.

Vetras and Reed once again connected for a long completion, this time for a 38-yard score to make the lead 34-0 at halftime.

Junior linebacker Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) stood out throughout the game and led all players with 13 tackles, while senior tri-captain Myles Walker (Needham, Mass.) added nine. Junior Kevin Helm (Norwell, Mass.) and junior safety Cam Evans (Norwell, Mass.) each had seven tackles and broke up a pass for the Bobcats.

Bates first-year Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) accounted for the game’s only interception, picking off Vetras in the second quarter on a fabulous catch down the left sideline. Kukesh’s heads-up play gave the visitors the ball at Amherst’s 33-yard line, but the Bobcats would go four-and-out to hand the ball right back.

The Bobcats play at Tufts University next Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m.

Stats and Play by Play: Amherst 44, Bates 0